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Utah Air Board to Tighten Regulations

Utah Air Board to Tighten Regulations

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Heeding a call from Utah doctors, the state's Air Quality Board has agreed to study and recommend changes to curb airborne soot that can build up dangerously during winter.

The board voted Wednesday to study how to make state pollution laws more effective, an exercise that could take eight months or longer.

Gov. Jon Huntsman has made improving Utah's air quality a priority and is "very anxious to get the problem solved," Air Quality Director Rick Sprott said.

The board said it would appoint a panel of experts to review the health damages caused by air pollution, acting on a request from the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, a group that got organized after an inversion blanketed much of the heavily populated Wasatch Front in January.

Dr. Brian Moench said his group would recommend scientists who can serve on the panel, and he hoped it would be independent. "It's hopeful," added Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, another group that formed after last winter's inversions.

Utah law allows pollution regulations to be more stringent that federal standards if they are needed to protect public health. The winter was the worst on record for inversions, which trap pollutants near the ground and turn the air into a brownish fog. Salt Lake County logged 28 red days, when pollutants were most concentrated, up from three last year. The Cache Valley in northern Utah also deals with inversions.

In winter, high-pressure systems can combine with Utah's bowl-shaped mountain basins to trap cold air close to the ground, keeping car emissions and other pollutants from dispersing.

The inversion can linger for days or weeks until a change in weather or winds sweep the basins clean.

------ Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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